The Family Code is a state law which addresses a comprehensive area of law including:
Marriage Dissolutions, (Divorces), Legal Separations, Marriage Annulments, Pre and Post Nuptial Agreements, Marvin (Cohabitation) Agreements, Paternity Actions, Domestic Violence Proceedings, Child and/or Spousal Support Modifications, Custody/Visitation Matters, etc.
In each case (as with legal proceedings generally) the resolution of these issues can be accomplished either by settlement or by litigation (or by default). The emotional nature of Family Law cases requires that experienced counsel encourage parties to at least entertain settlement (to minimize legal expenses) while they prepare (and be prepared) for litigation if necessary.
Divorces (now called Dissolutions) can be divided (bifurcated) into two parts. A Divorce proceeding will (1) dissolve the marriage which restores the parties to single persons, and (2) resolve the substantive issues which are addressed herein below.
CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION
1. Legal Custody: This is usually awarded jointly to the parties and allows them equal input and access to the health, education and welfare decisions in their child's life.
2. Physical Custody: Also called primary residence, is awarded to the party who has the majority of the child share time.
3. Visitation: Now called child sharing, it is presumed that frequent and continuing contact with both parties is best for the child.
4. Best Interests Test: The heart of this rule is stability for the child
CHILD SUPPORT AND SPOUSAL SUPPORT
1. Child Support: California recently enacted a uniform Child Support Guideline System which sets the amount of Child Support by computer programs based on a multitude of factors including:
• Child Sharing Percentages
• Father's Net and Gross Income
• Mother's Net and Gross Income
• Special Limited Deductions
• Tax Status and Dependency Exemptions
• Other Household Children
2. Temporary Spousal Support: Also known as alimony, temporary Spousal Support maintains the financial status quo during the pendency of the Dissolution proceedings. San Diego has no Spousal Support guideline system.
3. Permanent Spousal Support: Also known as alimony, permanent Spousal Support supersedes temporary Spousal Support and attempts to rehabilitate a dependent spouse to become financially self-sufficient. The Family Code identifies a number of factors which define Spousal Support amount, while Spousal Support duration depends on the length of the marriage.
4. Family Support: A combination of unallocated Child and Spousal Support.
5. Wage Assignment: All support is now directly enforceable in California by Assignment which is similar to a wage garnishment.
PROPERTY CHARACTERIZATION AND DIVISION
In this State, property is characterized as Community or Separate pursuant to the manner and time it was acquired. As a community property state, any property acquired with the labor, skill, energy, or time of either party, while married and living together, characterizes as community property. Community property can be divided equally by the Court or equitably by the parties. This property can be either real property (land and structures) or personal property (bank accounts, cars, businesses, securities, retirement funds, etc.).
1. Community Property: Assets and debts acquired during the term of the marriage except by gift or inheritance/devise or special rules (student loans).
2. Separate Property: Assets and debts brought to the marriage, etc., unless transmutated (changed) into Community Property.
3. Property Division: Community property is divided equally to the extent economically feasible. Therefore, household furniture and furnishings generally do not divide in kind.
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